The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision unleashed unlimited anonymous spending on campaigns.
Over $235 million was spent on CA ballot measures in 2010 alone, almost all of it by veiled actors hiding behind innocuous-sounding names like "Stop Hidden Taxes" or the "California Jobs Initiative".
Government-changing propositions are passed by hidden special interests spending millions on deceptive ads.
AB 1648, the California DISCLOSE Act, would fight back against unlimited hidden spending on campaigns by letting voters know who REALLY is paying for political ads — on the ads themselves.Authored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, AB 1648 would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974.
AB 1648 is a direct follow-up to AB 1148, which received 52 votes in the Assembly on January 31st, 2012, missing its 2/3 vote requirement by only two votes.
California DISCLOSE Act Provisions
Requires the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified with their names and logos — on the ads themselves, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, and to independent expenditures for and against candidates. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
Tells voters where to find the details — Requires ads to list a website with greater disclosure and a link to the Secretary of State's website
Will "pierce through" hidden funders by requiring political ads to report their three largest actual contributors, no matter how many committees or groups their contributions pass through.
Applies to slate mailers: Requires slate mailers to show when ads are paid for by independent expenditures.
Requires candidates to appear and say they "approve this message", just like federal candidates.
The attempt by Texas oil interests to overturn California's landmark climate change law with Prop 23 in 2010 failed because opponents had enough funds to disclose to voters that it was funded by Texas oil companies.
Despite tens of millions spent in 2010 on Props 16 and 17 by PG&E and Mercury Insurance, both lost because enough people knew they were the largest spenders and took that into account when viewing their ads.
Unfortunately, the largest funders aren't usually as clear as in Props 16, 17, and 23. AB 1648 would make sure they're clear all the time.
AB 1648 is Constitutional and Reasonable
The California DISCLOSE Act doesn't have to wait for a constitutional amendment. California can put it into place itself.
8 out of 9 justices in the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision noted the problems when groups run ads "while hiding behind dubious and misleading names" and said we need transparent disclosure for voters "to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
Required radio ad disclosures are shorter than those in current law in most cases — but more effective.
Print ad and mass mailer disclosure areas are similar in size to current required slate mailer disclosure areas.
"Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed." — Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in Doe v. Reed, 2010
Californians are Ready for the California DISCLOSE Act
84% of California voters said they favored legislation to "increase the public disclosure requirements of initiative sponsors to more clearly identify who are its major funders" in the October 13, 2011 Field Poll, including 86% of Democrats, 88% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans.
AB 1648 is already endorsed by the League of Women Voters of California, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, California Church IMPACT, the California League of Conservation Voters, CALPIRG, Consumer Federation of California, Greenlining Institute, Redwood Empire Business Association, Sierra Club California and many others. See the See the full list of endorsers.
"The overwhelming power of money to mislead voters is a profound moral issue."
— Reverend Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of California Church IMPACT, representing 1.5 million people of faith in California.
Tell voters who is really funding propositions and attack ads when it counts!